This time of year can be exhausting for teachers.
This year it seems to be even worse...probably because this seems to be the winter that will never end here in the midwest.
A few weeks ago, my throat started to get really sore one afternoon.
In the night, it became so painful that it woke me up.
I decided that morning that I would need to visit the doctor to get a strep test.
After contacting three different offices and not being able to get an appointment, I ended up getting in to a clinic about 11:30 that morning.
Sure enough...the strep test was positive.
I picked up my prescription and was on the road to recovery by noon on Monday.
I went back to school that week and taught like nothing ever happened.
Throughout the week, two of our three girls ended up with strep, as well.
No rest for moms with sick kids, right???
We all did ten days of antibiotic (actually, the girls are still taking theirs!).
I finished my ten days and felt great for three whole days!
Then this last Monday, after teaching all day and speaking at two board meetings that night, I thought I had overdone it.
I tried to rest my voice on Tuesday as much as I could.
However, Wednesday morning, my throat started to feel sore. And more sore. And more sore.
After a quick strep test Wednesday after lunch, it was confirmed...the strep was back.
With strict orders from the doctor, my boss, and most everyone else that I had come into contact with that afternoon...I headed home to rest.
I laid around a lot of the afternoon and took today off, as well.
Sometimes I think our bodies have to force us to rest.
Friends...we HAVE to make time to rest.
I struggle so much with this, but I am going to try very hard to start scheduling in downtime for every member of our family.
Life is too short to be running, running, running...doing, doing, doing.
Take some time to recharge this week, friends.
Love from the farmhouse.
I'm struggling. Oh, I'm so sorry...I'll be praying for you.
I'm guilty of using these phrases.
Sometimes to avoid a long, drawn-out conversation, we answer a question with a word or two...a word or two that are sometimes far from the truth.
Most of the time, I really am fine. Times that I really am great.
But there are days. There are weeks.
There are moments in life where I am NOT fine.
I am not great.
And yet, to avoid real connection, I just go through life pretending like it's all okay.
I'm afraid this happens more than we would like to admit.
We tell people to "take care" as we leave a conversation and then we walk away and don't even "take care" of ourselves.
People give us a glimpse into their difficult life situations and we promise our prayers and then we walk away with a quick prayer thrown up and don't ever think about it again.
I'm afraid that we are becoming a society who hides behind our smiles and our one word answers to real life questions.
A society who hides behind our computer and cell phones.
A society who would rather pretend it's all going great than connect with someone face-to-face.
I think these social platforms that were created to keep us more connected with one another have caused more division than the creators had ever anticipated.
So let's get real.
This year has been difficult for me.
Trying to transition from a job I absolutely love and adore to another job that I know I will love and adore...eventually.
Navigating the new waters of having a preteen in the house...and a threenager.
Having both of the older girls in the same school as each other...but a different school than me.
Selling a house. Buying a house. Losing weight. Remodeling a house. Farming. Gaining weight. Taking pictures. Teaching. Losing weight (again). Wife-ing. Mom-ing. Gaining weight (again). Blogging. Churching.
And guess what?
It hasn't always been wonderful.
It hasn't even always been good.
It has been hard and complicated and emotional.
It has been beautiful and challenging and full of growth.
My Instagram doesn't always show those difficult days.
My Facebook doesn't always show those difficult days.
This blog doesn't always show those difficult days.
Heck...my own face doesn't always show those difficult days.
So for today, just know...
I'm not always fine.
And that's okay.
You don't have to always be fine either.
Let's be real, friends.
Love & hugs from the Farmhouse.
When we first announced to the world (okay, our little world) that we were buying the farmhouse, I posted a picture and a friend of ours tagged Stephanie in it.
She said, "This house looks just like the house I grew up in!"
And at that moment...the story began unfolding.
She and I have been corresponding since we made contact that day about everything from the wells on the property to the way you have to put your hip into the interior doors to get them to close just right.
It has been a joy to have conversation with Stephanie about the home we have come to love and call our own and to get to know her sweet mama through our talks!
We have been saying for the last several months that the next time she was in Adrian, she would have to come visit and this weekend we were able to make that happen!
Stephanie, her brother Keith, and Keith's wife Tracy came out to see the farmhouse this afternoon.
They brought the aerial image you see above of the farm in the 1970's.
Our girls have been looking forward to meeting Stephanie ever since I told them about her several months ago.
Today, it happened.
She and Keith walked them through the house and gave them a tour, sharing details of what the house was like in year's past.
Mattie showed them her bedroom and closet (and offered to show them again at least four or five times). The wallpaper that Stephanie picked out as a young girl is still in the closet!
Claire shared the transformation to her girly bedroom from the one that was Keith's bedroom in high school.
Harlee's bedroom wasn't even a room back then...but instead a loft area that overlooked the stairwell. She enjoyed showing off her basketball room and reminding Mr. Farmhouse once again that he still hasn't built her a wall.
What a beautiful snowy day to introduce the girls to the adults who grew up here.
Thanks for coming out, Highley family.
2017 was a wonderful year in so many ways.
But if I'm being honest, it was also a hard year.
In 2017, my mom lost both of her parents.
Of course, this would be a difficult situation for anybody...losing both parents in one year.
But it was especially difficult for us.
A strained family relationship can make loss seem so much greater.
Mom wasn't only grieving for the loss of her parents, but for the absence of a normal functioning family.
Grieving the loss of the chance at reconciliation and healing.
Someday I will tell her story in it's entirety.
But not today.
Today, I want to recognize some of the difference-makers in her life.
Mom can remember going to Vacation Bible School at a very young age with her Aunt Peggy's mother, Mrs. McIntire.
Mrs. McIntire always made Mom feel like she was thrilled to have her there. Mom still thinks of her when she smells koolaid...all these years later.
Mrs. McIntire was difference-maker.
When Mom was about five, she remembers starting to go with her grandma to her adult Sunday school group.
They met at each others' houses.
Mom has fond memories of spending time with her grandma's friends...serving punch and cake and just visiting with them.
These women were difference-makers.
Mom went to church every week as a child with her Grandma Hannah (great name, huh?).
When she was in second grade, she remembers wanting a Bible with her name on it for Christmas.
She got this gift and remembers reading it every night, loving every minute.
Grandma Hannah was a difference-maker.
When Mom's family moved to Adrian her seventh grade year, the Johnson family took her to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night.
It was during this time that she went on a "Youth for Christ" hayride and committed her life to Christ.
Hal & Fern Johnson were difference-makers.
Throughout Mom's middle school and high school years, her friends' mothers became wonderful mentors to her.
These women helped her get through school.
They taught her about honesty and hard work.
They taught her character traits and Christian principles that continue to serve her well, over thirty years later.
Fern Johnson, Darlene Greenwell, Lila Gunn, Jeanie Brewster, Thelma Six, and countless others were difference-makers.
Mom got married in 1980 to my dear ol' dad.
Dad has supported Mom through many insecurities that came from a difficult past.
Together, they have raised two amazing children, if I do say so myself...ha...just kidding.
Because of the difference-makers in Mom's life, she has an amazing story of grace and generosity and love for others.
She and Dad have adopted another daughter and provided for countless other foster children throughout our lives.
She has a heart for children who have been mistreated.
She has served in the Church for in every way imaginable...for all age groups and many ministries.
She sees a need and meets it.
My mom is a difference-maker.
Despite a painful childhood, filled with neglect and abuse...she is a difference-maker.
Despite anxiety and insecurity that comes from her past...she is a difference-maker.
Despite the odds being seemingly stacked against her...she is a difference-maker.
THAT is the power in kindness and compassion.
THAT is the power in really seeing people.
THAT is the power in serving others.
THAT is the power found in the grace of Jesus Christ.
We CAN make a difference, friends.
Something has happened to me since I delivered our third daughter three years ago.
I get a bit emotional.
I cry when I'm happy...
When I'm sad...
When I'm angry...
When I don't sleep enough...
When I sleep too much...
When I see an old man in overalls.
I cry when one of my daughters says something sweet to her sister...
When a student masters a concept he or she has been struggling with...
When a first-year player on one of the girls' sports teams makes a basket in a basketball game or gets the ball over the net in volleyball...
When one of the girls shows understanding of the blessing that their great-grandparents are...
Usually, this consists of a lump in my throat and my eyes filled with tears with just a few escaping down my cheek.
But not always.
Sometimes, my little "choked-up, tear-running-down-my-face" crying turns into a big ol' ugly-cry.
I can specifically remember a day when our second daughter was just under a year old.
She hadn't been sleeping well and I was having "one of those days".
You know what I'm talking about...right, moms?
One of those days where I was barely holding it together through the school day.
I hadn't slept a full night in several weeks, my students were enjoying the last week before spring break as if it were already spring break, and I felt like I was living in a fog with a toddler and an infant.
My teaching partner casually made a comment in the teacher's lounge full of our colleagues giving me a hard time about the fact that I had mentioned taking a nap before I went home after school.
He meant NOTHING by his comment.
On a normal day, I would have just laughed.
But bless his poor heart...this wasn't a normal day...
I laughed at first and said, "I know..." and then the tears started coming, "...isn't it ridiculous?"
All the other women in the room immediately started trying to make me feel better and my poor teaching partner apologized.
But it wasn't his comment at all. He felt bad that he was the one that tipped the emotions from laughter to tears. But at some point or another, we've all been there.
I think sometimes you just need a good cry.
There is something about it that's cleansing to the soul and spirit.
In fact, that afternoon, after my ugly-cry, I was already laughing about the whole situation.
One morning, shortly after my grandpa had passed away, I walked into Casey's to find all of his coffee-drinking buddies there.
I said my "hellos" and went about my business.
As I walked out the door, an older man I didn't know met me there...in his Key overalls...just like Grandpa's.
And as I walked to my car (and all the way to work), I ugly-cried.
Sometimes, it's just necessary.
So this is your permission.
If you need to ugly-cry...just let it out.
Whether it's because of grief,
or pure joy.
Just let it out.
An ugly-cry every once in a while can be a beautiful thing.
And if you're still a bit unsure of letting the waterworks loose, I'm not just an ugly-crier...I'm a contagious-crier, too.
So if you need an ugly-cry partner...I'm your girl.